It’s well-documented that women with body image issues frequently struggle in their intimate relationships. Until now, I’ve never discussed this subject, even with my closest friends, yet I am one of these women. So with Valentines upon us – and a plethora of red, lacy underwear on display in every lingerie shop – now feels like a good time to raise the subject here.
Let’s start with said underwear: It makes me uncomfortable. I’m not sure when I realized the type of underwear we’re told is sexy simply feels wrong on me. The lace scratches, and I find the elastic around my waist and thighs grows restrictive.
Then there’s the way it makes me look. To be honest, that’s far worse than how it makes me feel. I know my husband, David, loves all of me, but I simply can’t see the beauty in my body that he so obviously sees. And despite how I much I’ve come to love my body, I still struggle to love it the way he loves it.
I believe I’ve figured out why: We’re fed highly sexualized images, but because the average body is invisible, when we do see one – even our own – it appears wrong, which causes shame. I realize now that I rarely see a body like mine wearing swimwear, let alone underwear. I’m either looking at a Victoria’s Secret Angel or a plus-sized body that gets a round of applause for being so bravely exposed.
But I don’t have either of those bodies. Mine is somewhere inbetween. It’s “average”. It’s no wonder so many of us don’t like the way we look or our size, shape or age – because we so rarely see ourselves.
So I’ve been thinking about what feels and looks desirable to me. I’m defining my sexuality rather than being defined by it. In doing so, I can see how much I’ve allowed myself to believe that in order to feel a certain way, first I need to look a certain way. I’m not trying to change the examples of what desirable looks like to society because I’m not sure that’s even possible. Rather, I’m exploring why those examples are meaningful to me and challenging the validity of my beliefs.
I’m tired of being acutely aware of what I don’t like, whilst failing to seek out what I do. So rather than feeling shame, I’m giving myself permission to explore what does make me feel like a body-confident, sexual woman.
My intimate life is private, but I hope that by sharing this much I’ll encourage you to do some exploring and defining of your own. We all deserve to have a sensual relationship – no matter our shape, size, looks or age. Red, lacy underwear or not, that’s entirely up to you.
Society may say otherwise, but there are no rules, which means you get to make your own.
The Pro-Body Project is published fortnightly. You can read the first entry here or the next entry, “The Time Will Pass Anyway” here.
GREAT points, Esther! Thanks for your candor, honesty, and acceptance. 🙂
Thank you so much, Paula. Your support is greatly appreciated. Esther xx
I adore this so very much. And echo your sentiments of my intimate life being private but I am already striving to instill confidence in my daughter. We women are our own harshest critics
Carla, what a lovely comment, thank you. What important work you’re doing, instilling confidence in your daughter, we’re our own harshest critics indeed. Esther xx
Thank you for your bravery. We are fed such a false message with all of the ads of surgically enhanced perfection. xo
Jen, thank you for your support, it means a lot. And yes, we’re fed all kinds of false messages – so the important thing to do is question every single one! Esther xx
After 10 breast cancer surgeries, my confidence about my body was shaken, but my husband reminded me that he’d always thought the sexiest thing about me was my attitude. That I was fun and enjoyed sex and that trumped body shape any day. I’m also reminded of something Oprah said: “He’s going to love you because you’re the only naked woman in the room.” She’s right. When faced with the immediate prospect of having sex, a man’s little brain takes over, and guess what? It can’t see. It can only feel. Brava, Essie, for sharing and getting us to have another dialog with ourselves about our bodies. Love you, girlfriend. Brenda
Brenda, I’m always in awe whenever you share a piece of your own incredible story, thank you! And what wise words from Oprah, plus how true. Thanks for giving me a place to share my thoughts and words. I love you too! Essie xx
This is what is great about getting older. We can choose to life on our terms and we have the experience to really do it. I have 27 surgical scars from 1/4 inch to 14 inches. I used to feel like Frankenstein but no more. I am a beautiful warrior. My terms.
Beth, thank you so much for sharing a little piece of your story. Plus I love what you wrote, “I am a beautiful warrior. My terms”. If only every woman could make this her mantra. Thank you, Esther xx